Football excitement surges as 2022 World Cup is around the corner

SR Suryanarayan



Football excitement surges as 2022 World Cup is around the corner

Coaches pose in front of the World Cup trophy during the draw for the 2022 World Cup | AFP

The Doha World Cup 2022 in Qatar is still more than six months away. But the first ripples of the excitement carried by this premier sporting extravaganza wafted across the globe recently with the draw ceremony held in the host city. No wonder they call football the most popular sport in the world. Why just popularity, even in rating and revenue generation, football is far ahead of others, and this World cup is expected to help FIFA reap record revenues of seven billion dollars, a kind of boom that reflects the health of this sport. For a hardened football fan, nothing can substitute the spectacle of a footballing contest for pure excitement! If the kind of buzz that the Doha event, held recently, is anything to go by then, this November-December period will be the time for football feast through and through in all nooks and corners of the globe. Most countries will be in the grip of winter, but for the fans, what better than the thrills and spills of gruelling contests to warm up the settings!

The gulf country, in keeping with the high profile job at hand, has left no stone unturned to make this event something to remember. After all, this is only the second time that the World Cup is coming to the Asian continent again after the 2002 edition jointly hosted by Japan and Korea. The oil-rich country has reportedly sunk in $200 billion into the infrastructure to make it the most expensive FIFA world cup in history. With eight stadiums, all to turn into multi-utility facilities later, closely linked to each other, this World Cup is already set to earn the distinction of becoming the most accessible event in the world cup history. Indeed there will be many more positives to count on since such big sporting occasions are always a rare opportunity to deliver the best. What matters, in the end, is what the Doha edition would produce in the arena. There will be 32 contestants to do justice, and 29 of them have been identified at the time of the draw ceremony, and the rest three will come in by June. The true countdown starts then, but there is no stopping the flow of prophecies.

Photo: AFP

The draw and the grouping give some pointers of the fare ahead. Who would have a comfortable start or who would face hurdles straightway are things that may appear simple when we analyse groups. But the true test will be on the turf when the ball begins to roll. World cups are meant to give the official stamp of greatness to players who have been on the anvil of distinction and also to identify the next level generation of heroes. To be sure, Doha will be no different. Four years ago, Kylian Mbappe was the cynosure of all eyes. The 'Young player of the tournament' Mbappe then shone with his goal-scoring ability, which was the key to France's success, its second World cup win. Mbappe has been the name that keeps popping up even now, and the ace player has everything in him to make his outing this time even more memorable. Croatian Luka Modric was another to earn high praise in Russia. Becoming the first Croatian player to win the 'Golden Ball'' for being the best player in the tournament was his reward for his show though his best could only put his country into the final. There were other greats like Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Neymar, but sometimes expectations can turn sour, and it has been their experience.

Cristiano Ronaldo | AFP

Will this fresh edition get to see a different facet of these three contemporary giants of the sport will be another point of interest? Ronaldo and Messi are coming into the fifth world cup. No player has gone beyond that, and to that extent, this could well be their final opportunity to come out as true legends. The best Ronaldo could do thus far was bring Portugal into the round of 16, while Messi did better almost took Argentina to title triumph in 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, but Germany edged out his dream. The two contemporary greats have otherwise won almost everything for their country. Portugal was the 2016 Euro champions, and Argentina grabbed the Copa America title last year. That heightens the hunger for that one big elusive moment in an otherwise glittering career. What about Neymar and even the Polish sensation Robert Lewandowski, both masters in goal-scoring and skills. Four years ago in Russia, Neymar was a spectacle of slips and falls and that hardly benefitted Brazil, but maybe just maybe Doha will see him more decisive. Brazil will need that. Lewandowski has a task in hand with Poland in the same group as Argentina! To that extent, Messi and Lewandowski will have a face to face early. Poland's best has been a third-place finish in 1974 and 1982, but under Lewandowski, there is a sudden surge of optimism.

Lionel Messi | AFP

As always there are lots more looks for in this grandest spectacle of football, and the 2022 edition cannot be different. Just as Italy's shock exit even before the start, there can be spectacular surprises from those in. There is a whole bunch of familiar contestants, not to forget the stupendous rise of Senegal in Africa, a continent that provides the spice to the contests, if not more. Since 2002 no non-European country has been lucky to lift the coveted trophy. Four editions have since gone by, and will it be different this time! For the statistically minded, in 2002, when Asia hosted its first World Cup, it was Brazil that emerged winner, and so when the continent hosts the second time, will it be another Latin American?!! Guesses can begin!

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